Name: Gregg Barrios
Hometown: Victoria, TX
Current Town: San Antonio, TX
Affiliations: Overtime Theater – San Antonio
Q: How do you self-identify?
A: Chicano, Latino
Q: Tell me about I-DJ.
A: I-DJ centers on a gay Mexican-American DJ / actor who spins the soundtrack of his life on the dance floor by night and by day performs in a send-up of Shakesqueer’s Ham-a-lot set to a dub-step beat of ecstasy, tainted love, Rollerena and Herb Alpert. When a younger DJ challenges him to a musical standoff, their stories and music collide. Only one will survive. The writer and critic John Phillip Santos describes I-DJ as “a queering chronicle that might’ve been scripted by Michel Foucault, if he’d been a hustling Chicano raconteur DJ thespian channeling Shakespeare on Molly.”
Q: What else are you working on now?
A: Last summer I work-shopped my new play A Ship of Fools: An Alibiography at the Kenyon Theater Conference under Playwrights Horizons’ Adam Greenfield. It focuses on Texas writer Katherine Anne Porter and her Chicano biographer. It’s a cross-culture romance about sex, inspiration and revolution but also an exploration of how American writers including Porter have appropriated Mexican culture and gente for their stories. We had a successful staged reading of the play in San Antonio in November. A full production is our next step.
Q: What have been the defining moments of your journey as a playwright?
A: The first was teaching teatro in Crystal City, Texas during the Chicano movimiento. I wrote original actos a la Teatro Campesino, rock musicals, a farmworkers’ version of Carmen, and a first staging of Evita two years before it opened on Broadway. The second was receiving a CTG-Mark Taper Fellowship. That experience made me want to write theater. The third was having my play Rancho Pancho premiere at the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival. It was the only play at the festival that wasn’t written by Williams. I also found a publisher for my work and New Yorker drama critic John Lahr reviewed it favorably. And last year I-DJ opened the NYC Frigid Fringe Theater Festival and was enthusiastically received by critics and audiences. It too has just been published. We’re presently negotiating for a production in California in the fall.
Q: Who have been your playwriting mentors and heroes?
A: My mentor was Brother Alexis Gonzales who taught theater at Loyola University in New Orleans. I owe a special debt to Diane Rodriguez and Luis Alfaro who nourished my work from the first draft. To that list I have to add el maestro Luis Valdez, María Irene Fornés, August Wilson, Tony Kushner, Edward Albee, Tennessee Williams, and what would I be without Shakespeare and Cervantes.
Q: What advice do you have for Latin@ playwrights at the beginning of their career?
A: Quite simple. Go to the theater – eat, drink and pray theater. You will soon discover if theater is your true creative calling. Theater can also soothe, advise and inspire whenever you are stuck in writing a scene i.e. “How would August Wilson write this?”
Q: What else should we know about you?
A: I recently made my acting debut in Telling San Antonio, an original three-act play in which real life veterans shared stories of their military service. I had served as an Air Force combat medical corpsman. PBS aired it nationally on Veterans Day, 2014. It gave me an insight into how an actor prepares and negotiates. And just as important, how our personal testimonios can be our most valuable tool to heal and engage. I’ve also been collaborating with actor and filmmaker James Franco on various projects. This year I worked on his new poetry collection Straight James / Gay James. I designed the book’s cover. We are also working on a book of his experimental work in poetry and film.
***For more on Gregg Barrios, see:
- “Gregg Barrios on the Power of Music, Poetry and James Franco” – James Courtney (OutinSA)
- “Gregg Barrios’ Acclaimed Play ‘I-DJ’ Explores Gay, Chicano and Musical Spaces” – Rigoberto González (NBC News)
- Gregg Barrios, I-DJ. Preface by John Phillip Santos (Hansen, 2016)
- “Queering the Movimiento” – B. V. Olguin (San Antonio Current)
- “FRIGID New York Interview – Gregg Barrios” – Byrne Harrison (Stagebuzz)
- Gregg Barrios, Rancho Pancho. Foreword by David Kaplan. (Hansen Drama Series, 2008)
- “Mexican Stand-Off” – Will Coviello (New Orleans Gambit)
- “Disorienting Identity: Gregg Barrios’ I-DJ mofomixmaster” – Ramón H. Ribera-Servera (Ollantay Theater Magazine, Vol. XV, Nos. 29-30)
- “In His Own Words: Gregg Barrios” – Jesús Treviño (Latinopia)
- “Latinopia Teatro – Rancho Pancho 1 & 2” – Jesús Treviño (Latinopia – Vimeo)
- Gregg Barrios Bio